Jean Kane joined commercial real estate firm Welsh Cos. in 1987, starting as a property manager. She worked her way up the ranks at the firm, and today holds one of the most influential positions in the Twin Cities real estate market.
As CEO of what is now Welsh & Colliers International, Kane oversees the Minnetonka-based company's real estate services group, which includes brokerage and property management (operating as Colliers International, Minneapolis-St. Paul); Welsh Construction; Genesis Architecture; Welsh Capital and FaciliTech. She was instrumental in Welsh's growth into a 300-employee firm and one of the biggest real estate brokerage houses in town. In 2011, its 75 brokers completed 1,115 transactions totaling more than $580 million. She's also one of a handful of women serving on the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties' (NAIOP) National Executive Committee.
QHow did you move up the ranks?
AAfter working in property management, I stepped into an asset management role and basically took on anything that they would throw at me. I give a huge amount of credit to Dennis Doyle (co-founder); he's been a phenomenal mentor to me for the last 25 years. ... It's unusual for a woman like me, who came from a small town in southern Minnesota, to have the job I do, but this is a culture that really embraces you for hard work.
QDo you think about being a female CEO in a still primarily male-dominated industry?
AI grew up with three older brothers, so I've always been around a lot of guys. Another one of my great mentors is my oldest brother, Mark. He was always telling me to dream big when I was a little girl. So do I like it? It's just what it is. I guess I never really tried to differentiate myself. ... If it helps great, and if it hurts, that's reality.
QWhy join Colliers International last year?
AWe wanted to partner with a global brand and one that would allow us to remain privately held. ... Some rankings have Colliers as the second-largest commercial real estate company globally.
QHow's 2012 looking?
AProduction numbers are stronger than 2011. ... We're not back to the super-strong years again, but they're good numbers. We're seeing corporations with good credit doing longer-term leases. More assets are being taken to the market, and the construction pipeline is strong. Prior to the recession, our construction business positioned itself to focus on senior housing and health care-related businesses.